European Union lawmakers reject global copyright pact

Thu Jun 21, 2012 1:38pm EDT
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By Claire Davenport and Ethan Bilby

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European lawmakers rejected the global Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) on Thursday, signaling the European Parliament may soon use new-found rights to derail an international trade agreement.

"This vote proves that the European Parliament is definitely receptive, is definitely hearing citizens' voices," said Italian politician Niccolo Rinaldi, a member of the trade committee which voted against the agreement.

The ACTA deal, in the pipeline since 2008, aims to reduce intellectual property theft by cracking down on fake consumer goods and medicines and digital file-sharing of pirated software and music.

The European Commission, the EU's executive body, has supported the treaty, which it says would target large-scale operations which enable illegal digital file-sharing.

The proposed legal crackdown has sparked furious protests, especially in Eastern Europe, by opponents who say it would censor free expression and criminalize people who download files for personal use.

Lawmakers from the 31-member trade committee said the vague wording of the law and disproportionate fines could do just that, which led them to oppose the bill.

"If the treaty is vague there's nothing to stop them (rights holders) pushing those boundaries," said David Martin, a British Labour MEP who led parliament's work on the bill.

He said that a person selling a fake football shirt for 5 euros could be fined 50 euros per shirt if that was the original retail price, which was heavy-handed.   Continued...